Voter Act-related numbers double since 2012

Published 6:19 pm Friday, January 27, 2017

The number of North Carolinians who registered to vote or updated their voter registrations through various state agencies under the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 more than doubled since 2012, from about 345,000 that year to a record 715,000 in 2016, according to the North Carolina State Board of Elections.

The National Voter Registration Act, also known as the “motor-voter” law, requires the agencies that provide public services, such as state agencies such as Division of Motor Vehicles offices and county departments of social services, to provide voter-registration services to their customers. The NVRA’s goals are to increase the number of eligible citizens who register to vote, enhance the participation of eligible citizens who register to vote, protect the integrity of the electoral process and ensure that accurate and current voter registration rolls are maintained.

In Beaufort County during 2012, there were 3,396 new voter registrations, with the number of new voter registrations during 2016 at 3,218, according to data from the Beaufort County Board of Elections. During 2012, in-person registrations at the Board of Elections office and registration drives totaled 1,671. In 2016, that number dropped to 1,234. During 2012, DMV offices registered 1,106 new voters in Beaufort County, with that number increasing to 1,205 new voters in 2016.

In 2012 in Beaufort County, there were 3,601 changes to voter registration records, with 2,392 of them made in person at the Board of Elections office or at registration drives. In 2016, there were 3,953 changes to voter registration records, with 2,133 made in person at the Board of Elections office or at registration drives.

“The registration numbers are going to correlate with the turnout numbers because we see a trend that during presidential elections more people vote during a presidential elections than they do during off-year elections. I think those folks update their registrations or decide to register to vote for the first time because the presidential elections get so much publicity surrounding them,” said Kellie Harris Hopkins, elections director for Beaufort County. “That makes perfect sense to me that they’d be up in presidential years simply because the public is more aware and more apt to participate.”

Hopkins believes she knows why NVRA’s requirement that certain agencies provide voter-registration services is working. “What it does do is make it more convenient for the voter. If they’re at an agency where they’re already doing business, they wouldn’t have to make a separate trip to our office. So, it would be more convenient,” she said.

Statewide, new registrations and updated registrations initiated at public-assistance agencies, including DSS offices, declined in 2013 and 2014, which were non-presidential-election years, but increased to more than 30,000 in 2015 and a record high of 48,910 in 2016.

The increase in voter registrations and updates was more dramatic at DMV offices, according to the state board, which attributes the increase to DMV’s secure online system that allows DMV customers to update their voter registrations when they make changes to their driver’s licenses and other DMV records.

“Through partnerships between boards of elections and public agencies across North Carolina, voter registrations submitted or updated through those agencies rose to an all-time high in 2016,” said Kim Westbrook Strach, executive director of the State Board of Elections. “This is great news for voter participation and will help ensure the accuracy of North Carolina’s voter rolls moving forward.”

Aside from county DSS offices and DMV offices, the following agencies are required to offer voter registration opportunities:

  • Division of Services for the Blind;
  • Division of Services for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing;
  • Division of Medical Assistance;
  • Division of Public Health/WIC;
  • Division of Rehabilitation Services;
  • Division of Social Services;
  • Employment Security Commission.

More than 661,000 DMV customers registered to vote or updated their registrations in 2016, up 81 percent from 366,000 in 2015.

For more detailed NVRA data, go to the State Board of Elections’ website at




About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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